Jets Jerseys Put ‘Win’ In Winnipeg

The Winnipeg Jets have always had pretty nice jerseys…

Except when the original (more or less) Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes, embracing Southwestern kitsch for a few unfortunate years. Or when the NHL franchise that would become the current Jets existed in Atlanta, where for 11 seasons the Thrashers never wore anything that wasn’t ugly.

Since relocating from Atlanta in 2011, the new Jets have dressed — and played — much better. A first-ever trip to the conference finals this season gives the current squad a chance to show the world just how sharp the Jets look.

In the Beginning …

The first Winnipeg Jets were a junior team formed in 1967 in the Western Canada Hockey League. When the World Hockey Association, an upstart challenger to the NHL, came along in 1972, they grabbed the name — and the attention of the hockey world by signing none other than the NHL’s Golden Jet, Blackhawks star Bobby Hull, to a then-unheard deal that included a $1 million signing bonus.

Winnipeg won three championships in the WHA’s seven seasons, after which it was one of four of the struggling league’s teams to merge with the NHL. In 17 NHL seasons, the original Jets won exactly two playoff series.

Here’s a rundown of the major changes to that team’s wardrobe.

1972: The road jerseys were blue, with three stripes — two white and one red — at the waist and elbows. On the back, a white nameplate was stitched with red letters above a white-trimmed red number. The logo, “Jets” spelled in red, featured a stick-like “J” and the image of a skater in the negative space of that letter. The home whites added a blue shoulder yoke, while the numbers and logo were blue, trimmed with red.

1973: Essentially, the same jerseys with a new logo. This placed “Jets” in a circle, made the “J” look even more like a stick, blended the top line of the “E” and the “T” together, added the silhouette of a passenger jet in a puck-like circle above the “J” and “Winnipeg” in arcing red letters below.

1979: For their NHL debut, the Jets took on a new look — borrowing heavily from the New York Rangers’ old look. Former GM John Ferguson had put the Rangers in full-length sleeve stripes for the 1976-77 season and brought it with him to the Jets. White stripes trimmed in red ran from cuff to cuff over the shoulders of the blue jersey, blue trimmed in red on the white.

1990: The original Jets get their final redesign, which would hold until the Phoenix move in ’96. Simple, wide stripes at the elbows and waist made for a classic look, as did another home run of a logo — this one a sharp updating of its predecessor. The nose of a jet moved to the space to the left of the “J,” “Winnipeg” above the line formed by the top of “E-T-S.”

Riffing on the R(C)AF

The Jets took their time deciding to be the Jets again, making that call at the 2011 NHL draft. A month later they debuted their new logo, which, like the jersey on which it rests, they’re still using.

That’s a good thing. Though it doesn’t resemble the Jets jerseys of old, the current, classically simple one mirrors their best traits. The home jerseys are dark blue with lighter blue and white accent stripes at the waist and elbow. The road whites add a dark blue shoulder yoke that runs all the way to the wrists. But the best part is the logo, which deftly mimics that of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Both logos feature a red maple leaf on a field of white inside a blue circle. The Winnipeg logo adds a gray fighter jet atop the leaf. You’d have to figure an alternate jersey is coming for the 2018-19 season, but when a team looks this good, they don’t need it.

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet. Check out Pro Stock Hockey at https://www.prostockhockey.com/

 

What the Pacioretty trade means for both teams

Written by: Liam Holland @LiamPattyHol

Since it was stated there would be no contract negotiations between the Canadiens and their Captain Max Pacioretty, there has been speculation about whether Pacioretty would make it to free agency next summer, be a rental for a playoff team or be traded before the season starts.

Well, the latter happened.

On Monday September 10th, 2018 the Montreal Canadiens traded Captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick.

For the Golden Knights it appears that they have found an upgrade for James Neal as he’d left for Calgary in FA. That upgrade is Max Pacioretty, who will undoubtedly make the Knights offence even more potent as he’ll likely play with notable playmaker Paul Stastny.

With a new place to play and less media attention than in Montreal I think Knights fans have much to look forward to this season from Pacioretty. As Captain of a storied franchise, though, if he’s called to be a leader he’s more than capable to fill that role.

Coming off a difficult season with the Canadiens, Pacioretty will no doubt want to bounce back after scoring only 17 goals in 64 games – which is much less than the elite goal scorer is used to over the course of his career. Given that the Knights gave up a prospect its no surprise they signed Pacioretty to a very nice $28 million deal over 4 years. Now with a new system under head coach Gerard Gallant we’ll see what the former Habs captain can achieve as a Golden Knight.

The Canadiens acquisitions are interesting as they were able to attain a hopeful center prospect in Nick Suzuki who scored 100 points for the Owen Sound Attack this past season. Acquiring Suzuki puts the Canadiens prospect pool in good standing with 3rd overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and 2017 25th overall pick Ryan Poehling. All three of them centers, giving the Canadiens fans a surge of hope for the center core in the future. Suzuki is no doubt what make or breaks this trade for the Canadiens as he looks to be a promising center who can skate well with the puck and be the scoring center the Habs haven’t had in years.

Acquiring Tomas Tatar is a good pickup with the departure of Pacioretty so Habs fans can look forward to Tatar as a possible second line left wing this season maybe third line. Tater is under contract for the next three seasons. I’m sure most Habs fans would expect 20 goal seasons from Tatar. The 2nd round pick we’ll see what comes of it.

The Golden Knights fans have much to look forward to this year with Pacioretty’s addition bringing his great shot and leadership, the knights will continue to be contenders this year. As the Canadiens have started to realize their place in the league looking to rebuild starting with their biggest weakness being at center.

NHL 1st Overall Picks: Part II

To continue from yesterday’s post, we begin in 2010…

Taylor Hall/RNH/Nail Yakupov: 2010-12 to Edmonton
The Black Hole of the Edmonton Oilers #1 Overall picks. 3 straight years, 1 player remains. There isn’t much to say about these guys that hasn’t already been well-documented. Yakupov and RNH simply did not live up to lofty expectations, and that’s on them. Taylor Hall has always been a top-tier winger since his rookie season, but they lacked a real spine since he got there. McDavid came along but that was apparently the end of the road for Hall, who then got shipped to New Jersey and promptly won a Hart Trophy. Edmonton makes no sense. McDavid will probably retire an Oiler, and that’s because they’ll have no choice but to fix themselves for him, because he’s worth it. Or maybe he just ends up in Toronto too, right?

https://twitter.com/Tanner_Maurice/status/1014132461549301760

Nathan MacKinnon: 2013 to Colorado
MacKinnon got drafted into a great and fairly stable franchise. They’re long removed from their Sakic/Forsberg/Roy-led hay day, but things could have been a lot worse for a 1st overall pick. A theme with the “finished last but not tire-fire’ franchises, are that they have a backbone. A leader. Although Joe Sakic doesn’t lace them up anymore, his impact is still felt in this room every day, and that type of influence matters around NHL rinks. MacKinnon has enjoyed great success since entering the league and it doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.

Aaron Ekblad: 2014 to Florida
The undisputed 1st overall pick in 2014, Ekblad brought a unique combination of size and offensive skill to round out a prototypical “modern day” NHL defenseman. Years ago, you may have taken pity on a guy who was going to the Florida Panthers, but he’s emerged with a Calder Trophy, and a nice group of good players around him. Ekblad may just find his jersey in the rafters as a career Panther.

Connor McDavid: 2015 to Edmonton

We all remember this moment:

Well, this now seems like an ancient photo of a fresh-faced McJesus. He’s come along way from the “pinpoint the moment his heart breaks” to now, an NHL scoring champion, Hart Trophy winner, a Western Conference final appearance, and he’s also caused the highlight reel to run out of film. Management has taken steps to solidify the middle of the ice with the signing of Draisaitl, but they do still lack scoring wingers. McDavid has committed his foreseeable future to Oil Country, and if they can shore up the wings to ensure perennial playoff appearances, that should go a long way to keep McJesus right there. It doesn’t hurt that Edmonton occasionally entertains the Great One in the building… Not a bad mentor to have at your disposal.

Auston Matthews: 2016 to Toronto

For the sake of sample size, Auston Matthews will be our last spotlight here. He had the best 1st game a rookie could dream of, potting 4 goals in his well-documented debut, and it culminated in his team clinching a playoff spot later that year with him scoring his 40th of the season. Although being knocked out of the 1st round that year, he again celebrated a Calder Trophy. In the past, fans and critics alike wouldn’t be totally surprised if Matthews took his skills elsewhere in search of a Championship. And while nobody can predict exactly what will happen in the future, the Toronto Maple Leafs are different now. They have, in Babcock’s words, ‘made it safe’ for players to be here. Management has cultivated a culture, a prospect pool, and a lot of skill around their top centre, and given him a ton of excuses to stay. I’m not afraid to jinx this one bit when I say Auston Matthews will not wear another sweater his entire career.

Care to disagree? Fight me about it here! @HollandGregJ on Twitter

*edit: originally had McDavid as the Calder Winner. He did not win the Calder as it went to Panarin that season. In my opinion, that is an outrage.

NHL 1st Overall Draft picks: Oh the Places They’ll Go (or not)

With all these contract talks and mud-slinging between fans, let’s try and take an objective view of what really matters to players and why they’d want to stay with or move on from the team that drafted them. Star players are just fundamentally different. They have needs others just don’t. Not only do they come with expectations right out of the gate, they need care and nurturing in order to help them blossom. They’re sensitive creatures, okay?

This talk has spiraled out of control ever since reports started surfacing about Tavares signing with Toronto on July 1st. Isles fans went from a quiet optimism, (ie; not giving him signing somewhere else a second thought), to flooding social media with claims that he’s overrated. Ok. Sure.

Since the NHL as a league is just fundamentally different than it was before the 2004 lockout, the appropriate place to start than with reigning Stanley Cup Champion and Conn Smythe winner, Alexander Ovechkin.

Alex Ovechkin: Drafted: 2004 to Washington
The Great 8 was picked as the savior for the Washington Capitals. He quickly impressed with 52 goals and 106pts in his rookie season. Simply put, he is one of the premier goal scorers in NHL history, and his resume speaks for itself. Why stay? Not only has Ovechkin himself impressed, but the team around him has been a juggernaut for years. He’s had a world-class centreman in Nik Backstrom, all-star defenseman in Mike Green, and Vezina Trophy winner Brayden Holtby over the years. Ted Leonsis is an owner who has taken care of Ovie (when a lot of people thought he was crazy to sign that 13-year deal), and done everything in his power to surround him with talent and coaching. We all know how it culminated in 2018, so it looks like a great choice all-around. Ovechkin will end his career as a life-long Capital.

Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin: 2005/2004 to Pittsburgh
The most successful duo in recent memory, celebrating 3 Stanley Cups, Conn Smythe’s, Hart’s, Art Ross’, Ted Lindsay, etc. While Sid is the Captain, you’ll often find Geno leading the Pens through season stretches, whether it be because 87’s hurt or he just found himself on a tear. And what can we say about Sid? He’s won everything, everywhere. Granted, Malkin wasn’t a 1st overall pick, but let’s be honest, he hits here. Why would they stay? You never hear rumblings of Sid needing to go play for his boyhood team, the Montreal Canadiens, do you? Why not? Mario Lemieux, who coincidentally enough, also grew up a Habs fan, that’s why. Mario has not only provided a home for Crosby in his early years, but a safe, stable, honest, place for him to grow his game and succeed. Stability and direction, (winning helps, too), are the most important part of keeping stars happy. They’re also buds – see below.

Erik Johnson: 2006 St. Louis – A highly touted all-around defenseman who wouldn’t necessarily blow your socks off with his offensive numbers, but could provide a bit at both ends of the ice. Let’s be brutally honest here – it wasn’t the strongest draft ever. He has already moved from St. Louis to Colorado where he seems to have found a good spot for himself with a young team on the rise. He’s signed there long-term, and there’s a good chance he spends the majority of his good years in Mile-High.

If it wasn’t simple before, it is now:

Patrick Kane: 2007 to Chicago
3 Cups. Toews. His home team? Buffalo Sabres. Enough said.

Steven Stamkos: 2008 to Tampa
He’s had his chance to leave, and decided not to. Why? His team is good, Steve Yzerman has put his club in a brilliant position to succeed, and I’ve heard something about the taxes in Florida being beneficial to players. The time he could have gone to Toronto, well, the team was terrible, so why would he?

John Tavares: 2009 to NYI
Came roaring out from World Junior stardom, and looked to continue his OHL dominance in the NHL for the Islanders. He was the saving grace for the franchise and a much needed breath of fresh air. He led them to 1 playoff appearance in 9 years on the Island winning 1 playoff series, (with Johnny getting the OT winner to clinch it). Equipped with 9 years of knowledge on how the franchise runs, he decided to take his talents home. In what seems to be an exception to the rule, (the one where players can’t return home without facing a lifetime of ‘traitor’ chants from their draft teams), and different than Stamkos’ situation, John was set up perfectly for a return to his home town. Free-agency in his prime, the Islanders front-office turnover, no home rink, and most of all, the Maple Leafs young skill being the talk of the NHL.

https://twitter.com/Ginohard_/status/1013476507593818112

Tomorrow we’ll pick it up in 2010, where the Edmonton Oilers kick off a string of terrible finishes resulting in 1st overall picks.

Disagree? I have terrible takes? Let me know it! @HollandGregJ on Twitter!
Continue reading NHL 1st Overall Draft picks: Oh the Places They’ll Go (or not)

Ranking the NHL Divisions: METROPOLITAN

1 Pittsburgh: Although the Capitals reigned supreme in 2018, I like the Penguins taking their spot back at the top of the division. I just can’t go against a Crosby and Malkin lead team. Throw in Kessel and a Letang looking to rebound and I see them cruising to the top.

2 Washington: The Capitals have a dynamic center duo in their own right, with an ever consistent Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov who burst into the scene recently. Alex Ovechkin has some good years left before he starts to decline and those 3 players will keep the Caps competitive for a while. Re-signing John Carlson was huge for them as well. I see another good season on the way.

3 Carolina: This will be my most controversial pick, but I really like the Hurricanes lineup right now and I think they can play so much better than they did last season. Adding Dougie Hamilton turns a great defensive core to arguable second best in the league after Nashville. Aho is a year older and is looking like a future star in this league. The big question is goaltending and scoring depth. They are both iffy at best, but when I look at their team on paper, I see no reason why they can’t leap frog a few teams that finished ahead of them.

4 Philadelphia:  The Flyers have been built around the same core for a while that has always given them success, but not quite enough to put them over the edge. The emergence of Couturier and Provorov could be enough to prove me wrong, but for now I think they are a playoff bubble team. The good news for them is Giroux seems to be back to his old self and putting up monster points.

5 New Jersey: A young core give the Devils a lot of hope, and Taylor Hall has proven capable of carrying the team. He needs a lot more help though. Last years first over all selection Nico Hischier has his first season under his belt and will be relied on a little heavier. I see good things for the Devils future but they aren’t quite at contender level yet.

6 Columbus: Losing Panarin could be a disaster for Columbus as he was far and away the best forward for the Blue Jackets last season (seriously not even close). Now this is all speculation that he might be traded, due to a report that he does not want to play in Columbus anymore. If he stays and plays another full season with the Jackets, there is some hope. Some.

7 New York Rangers: A weak lineup that finished last in 2018 doesn’t look any better today. The Rangers should be rebuilding but it is yet to be seen if it actually happens. Kreider, Zibanejad and Buchnevich could be an alright line, not really first line material though and it doesn’t get any better after that.

8 New York Islanders: The other New York team is even worse. After losing Tavares, an already bad team got considerably worse. Adding insult to injury, their answer was signing Matt Martin and Leo Komarov. Gross. Barzal has some massive shoes to fill here, and as talented as he is, I can’t see him dragging this team into relevance.

Tyler Ennis Provides a Different Look and Some Insight on the Leafs Fourth Line

The Leafs continued to sign players after John Tavares this off season including Tyler Ennis joining the Blue and White after years of playing down the QEW. The Leafs are at a unique crossroad for their upcoming season, and the Ennis signing shows that the players will have to earn their spot with versatility and role filling ability being most important.

With three lines that could feature as top units for other teams, the Leafs have incredible centre depth meaning their fourth line will need to be two things – energetic and versatile. It’s not difficult to see that the Matthews line and Tavares line will each take about 20 minutes a night. Mix in a line with Kadri, Johnsson, and Kapanen scooping up a good chunk of the remaining 20 minutes and it becomes pretty obvious that the fourth line will need to have players that are specialists and players who can move up the line up as needed.

For Tyler Ennis his positional play provides some versatility in being able to play both left wing and centre. While more comfortable on the wing now, Ennis did win Sabres team MVP as their top centre man in 2013/14 just three years into his NHL career. And while his offensive abilities may not be what they used to be, he could be in for some extra juicy minutes with some line swapping every night.

This swapping would be on Auston Matthews line with noted penalty killing dynamo Zach Hyman. Babcock likes to roll his lines and pressure off of the back of a successful penalty kill which has caused him to not use the Matthews line post PK in the past. Now, with Ennis having the ability to step in an play a similar role to Hyman at even strength we could see some more Matthews and Ennis as a response unit… or ya know he could just roll Taveras’ line. Regardless, this scenario shows the versatility that having quick skilled players on the roster provide a coach.

Another thing the Ennis signing signals is the desire for roster competition by Dubas and Babcock. Free agent signings and NHL veterans like Ennis, Jooris, Lindholm, Cracknell and the ever present extra forward Josh Leivo will bring experience to the race for a limited roster spot. With it being extremely likely Connor Brown will remain cemented on the right wing position all of these players will be battling for two spots. Leafs fans should keep a keen eye on prospects like Pierre Engvall and Carl Grundstrom to push for a fourth line spot, too.

With limited 5 on 5 time Ennis and the other candidates fighting for the fourth line will need to show effectiveness in limited time, and roster versatility. Again, like with the Leafs goal tending, there is roster depth that is making positions tough to come by which is nothing but a good thing for the Leafs. It appears that the Detroit mentality Babcock had sustained success is being brought to and embraced in Toronto – insulate your prospects and over develop; no free roster spots!

 

Maple Leaf Memories of Ray Emery

After the tragic passing of former NHL goalie Ray Emery, I’ve had memories coming back to me about seeing him in an Ottawa Senators jersey. A common combatant in the Battle of Ontario during his many years in Ottawa, Emery had a swagger about him that you just had to respect. It isn’t often that a goalie could exude such a presence on the ice, but when you and all the other players out there know you can kick everyone’s asses, you get a little more respect from your opposition.

Respect; for me, it’s something I have for Ottawa. Maybe not their current ownership, maybe not their shaggy headed former captain’s antics, and maybe not for their enforcer Chis Neil’s gaptoothed face yipping away at the end of inevitably losing a fight, but on the whole I can respect a team that has rivalled the Leafs over the years. And this respect for my team’s rival is why I love Ray Emery – because he pumped and embarrassed a Leaf’s rival I don’t respect – the Buffalo Sabres.

I don’t know why, but I just don’t like them; always cocky with nothing to show for it Buffalo seems to be more bark than bite in the NHL. Thats why I took incredible joy in watching Emery throw with Marty Biron and laugh in the face of Sabre’s enforcer Andrew Peters.

In his first game back from a three game suspension Emery joined in on a good old fashion line brawl grabbing the Sabres goalie Biron and beating the pulp out of him. Emery was an avid boxing fan to the point of having the nickname “Sugar Ray” and a depiction of Mike Tyson on his mask – this should have been a warning to the Sabres. Once Biron was dispatched with the towering Peters broke free from his fight and squared up with Emery to protect his goalie who was haphazardly lining up for a second ass beating.

With his reach barred by his chest protector, and his arms no where near Peters’ length Emery smiled in the face of his opponent and took some hard knocks. That is the indelible image I’ll always have in my head of Ray Emery, him staring down a monster and smiling in the face of adversity.

The NHL and it’s players are mourning the loss of a well liked, highly respected, and incredibly inspirational goalie from their ranks. He battled through the CHL to make the league, through self-inflicted suspensions, personal life issues, he reestablished himself in Europe to get back in the NHL. His biggest battle came from a hip condition that not only looked like it would end his NHL career, but also his ability to walk normally. Ray overcame this adversity, too.

Emery constantly battled, not dissimilarly to a boxer, and round after round he came back for more. As a Leaf fan I could never forget Emery for his inclusion in the Battle of Ontario, and as a hockey fan I’ll remember his massive presence and perseverance.

Rest in Peace Ray.

For the first time in years the Maple Leafs have goalie depth

Organizational depth became a focal point for Brendan Shanahan took over the Maple Leafs and implemented his Shana-plan. The hiring of Kyle Dubas supported this sentiment as he was then appointed to take charge of the Marlies as GM and stabilize the AHL team’s structure. For both Shanahan and Dubas the stockpiling of top prospects and development of draft picks has seen a rise in high caliber players within the Maple Leafs farm system. The area of goaltending has seemingly fallen to the wayside in previous regimes but it has been restocked with some impressive recruits, all pressing for the eventual starting job with the big league club. Here is a breakdown of the depth of the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltenders.

Frederik Andersen:

The notoriously slow starter turned Vezina candidate, Frederik Andersen has been an elite starting goaltender in his tenure with the Maple Leafs. He was acquired before the start of the 2016/17 season in a trade with Anaheim for a late first round pick. The deal was executed by Lou Lamoriello and was met with some skepticism as Andersen had never played a full season as a starter. Two years on the deal looks like a steal for the Maple Leafs as Andersen has put up back to back seasons with .918 save percentages, and a 2.81 goals against average.

Andersen also faced more shots than any other goaltender last season, with 2029 shots against and racked up five shutouts. He was playing lights out for the majority of the season and helped stabilize a young NHL team that continued to grow on the ice. At only 28 years old, and with three years left on his deal Andersen will likely stave off the mounting competition for the starting job for the remainder of his Leaf’s contract. He’s elite, he’s calm in the net, compact in his positioning, and gives the Leafs stability on the back end. A top quality starting goalie for the Leafs in their early years as a contending team.

Curtis McElhinney:

The veteran back up to Frederik Andersen, Curtis McElhinney has performed admirably in his time with the Maple Leafs. He re-upped on a two year contract for $850,000 per year before the 2017 season, so he will be playing out the last year on the big league team before likely moving on or retiring. At 35 years old McElhinney has been a solid career backup goalie and has cemented that in his time with Toronto.

He has helped in securing back to back playoff seasons, and even has his name in the Maple Leafs record books as the holder of best single season save percentage (minimum 500 shots) at .925%. His most impressive moment as a Maple Leafs came in the second last game of the regular season against Pittsburgh. A win would see the Leafs make the playoffs and with 48 seconds left Sidney Crosby was robbed blind on a cross crease pass that McElhinney tracked and beautifully stopped with his left pad.

He’s a bit unorthodox style-wise, but he has been serviceable as a Maple Leaf and has provided stability in a position that in underrated by many for importance to a team.

Garret Sparks:

One of the Maple Leafs most important prospects is goaltender Garret Sparks. He made a 17 game appearance in the 2015/16 season for the Maple Leafs where he became the first ever Maple Leafs goalie to debut with a shutout. However, his play dipped along with his teams and he was sent back to the minors. Last season with the Marlies was one for the record books. Sparks had a 1.79 GAA and a .936 save% earning him the Baz Bastion award for most outstanding AHL goalie, as well as the Hap Holmes award he shared with goalie battery-mate for lowest goals allowed per game with a 2.26 average on the season. Oh yeah, and he won the Calder Cup.

Sparks currently has one more season at a the league minimum cap hit before he hits RFA status. He is extremely important to the Leafs because goaltending is at a premium in the league and while he could have an effect on the actual roster he could be more important as a trade piece. The Leafs are currently set on their starter while Sparks is pushing for NHL minutes after performing extremely well in the minors. Carolina, or Phili… need a goalie?

Calvin Pickard:

Pickard was acquired last season via trade between the Leafs and Vegas that saw prospect Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 sixth-round pick. Pickard has 86 NHL games under his belt, but was sent directly to the minors to support Sparks and the Marlies on their quest for the the Calder Cup. He played in 33 games for the Marlies last season and combined with Sparks for an award winning season. He has the skills and experience to make him a solid NHL backup or AHL starter, and should be looking for that opportunity.

For the Leafs, Pickard is in the same boat as Sparks. Surely after this upcoming season one of the two players should be moved into the backup role behind Andersen. That leaves the other as a likely trade candidate with the younger goalies in the system maturing to ascending to the AHL. Whether it is Sparks or Pickard that makes the leap to the Maple Leafs for the 2019/20 season, another year of dominant AHL play for the two goalies should see their skills develop further and their trade value spike, too.

Kasimir Kaskisuo:

Kasimir Kaskisuo is the first goalie that should be looked at as a real, true prospect in the Leafs organization. At 24 years old the Finnish born goalie went un-drafted and played out his development in the NCHC with the University of Minnesota-Duluth for two season. Kaskisuo put up great numbers in his two seasons, and was signed by the leafs following his college career. He has struggled in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears, posting a 3.45 GAA in 32 games during the 2016/17 season.

The following season the Leafs loaned out Kaskisuo to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL. With a move more reminiscent of a soccer transaction than a hockey one, the Leafs showed their interest in their prospect, finding game time for their player in an unorthodox way. He’s young, he shows promise, he’s excelled at the college level; all were signs that the Leafs need to fit him into their system and he replayed their investment with Chicago. Kaskisuo played 28 games for the Wolves with a 2.38 GAA and .914 save% last season.

He is a smothering goalie with good size and uses his strong edge work to make him surprisingly mobile in the crease. He can quickly seal off the bottom of the net and glide from post to post with ease. Look for him to transition back to the Marlies should one of Sparks or Pickard move on from the team or graduate to the NHL.

Joseph Woll:

At just 20 years old former Leafs third round pick in the 2016 draft has been having great success at Boston College in the NCAA H-East League. Woll, a product of the US National Team development program, showed that the Leafs were drafting for need rather than taking the best available player. Bibeau a sixth round pick, and Sparks a seventh round pick, were the last two goalies selected by the Leafs, but both were late round picks. Woll’s selection was an investment in a highly touted young player who will hopefully ascend through the Leaf’s system and be a homegrown talent the Leafs can build upon.

According to DobberProspects.com Woll has good size (6’3″, 197lbs) and high potential for reaching the NHL. He is expected to be selected to the USA’s World Junior team and is the probable starter for that tournament. At 20 years old he should continue to play at Boston College for the next 1-2 years with the log jam in the AHL at the goalie position for the Marlies.

His playing style is similar to Andersen; compact, controlled, and down early. He is very quick with his edges allowing him to recover from blocked shots, deflections, or first saves to square up to secondary chances. He looks extremely promising, and even though he is years away from featuring for the Leafs, keep the name Woll in your memory.

Ian Scott:

Like Woll, Ian Scott was a early/mid draft pick (fourth round in 2017) and is a solid prospect to add to the organizational goalie depth chart. Physically, Scott has a presence it net, registering at 6’3″ but needs to cultivate some mass as he is only 175lbs. He uses his light frame to be an fast, athletic goalie. He has a poor team in front of him in the WHL in the Prince Albert Raiders, which has inflated Scott’s numbers, but the Leaf’s drafted him on his technical skills and will look to implement him into the AHL system in the coming years, according to Darren Pang of the NHL Network.

The future is bring in Leaf land when looking at the goaltenders of the future. The best part? The current team isn’t being forced into playing any of these players too early in their development to help them contend at the time being. The Marlies are stocked with two elite AHL goalies, Kaskisuo is promising and looks ready to replace either Sparks or Pickard when they depart, and the Leaf’s goalie draft picks from 2016 and 2017 are highly touted and developing well.

For what feels like the first time in years the Maple Leafs are filling the cupboards with solid prospects, letting them marinade at the appropriate levels, and not forcing any players into premature situations. We all have heard that goalies take longer to develop than any other position, but when you have players staggered at different ages and levels of play it makes the transition from one player to the next more natural and less stressful for the fan base.

Leaf’s fans can smile and exhale, the future of their crease appears to be in solid hands.

Vancouver Canucks: On The Right Path And Ready To Turn The Corner?

Not since the 2011 Stanley Cup final has there been so much buzz around the Vancouver Canucks, but this scenario should end in less rioting and more celebrating for Canucks fans. The rebuilt of the farm system full of high quality prospects and those same players inching closer to being NHL ready should have the Vancouver faithful excited for the near future, but how did they get here?

Goodbye to the old guard.
There is a time to say goodbye to all players, and the marquee twins that lead Vancouver for so long have collectively hung up their skates. In their final NHL season Daniel and Henrik were 2nd and 3rd in team scoring with 55 and 50 points. Both were severe minus players (-22, -20), but with a team in transition that is relatively expected. Regardless, the Sedin’s went out with a bang for the Canucks and did it side by side, as per usual.

It will be a little odd not seeing the Sedins in the league next season. The Swedish twins have been a fixture in the league since the 2000/2001 season, and are have represented the organization admirably for the better part of two decades. With the new generation creeping towards being NHL ready it was time for the 37 year old forwards to move on, opening space and money for the upcoming players.

The Wildcard
The man responsible for the six year $36 million deal to Loui Eriksson seemed to have a strong draft for Vancouver, but any man willing to commit to Eriksson for that long should have a close eye kept on him. General Manager Jim Benning sported a new hair style (Dracula-esque) at the NHL Entry Draft this year, and apparently it brought with it a new Benning attitude. No big splash moves, no collusion talk, no tampering with impending free agents; Jimmy was cool and focused on the draft.

Is he the man for the job, the man to take Vancouver to the next step of their development life? He seems as good an option as any right now. Vancouver can learn a lesson from Edmonton and not change their front office while the team is still developing, even if a Stanley Cup winning GM is available like Peter Chiarelli was. Benning may not be totally trust worthy to the fan base and may not be the best GM in the league, but no doubt he wants to see out him impressive prospect pool as they step towards the NHL and prove the doubters wrong.

Free Agency
Benning proved to be a little more shrewd in his off season acquisitions so far this summer with some sensible free agent signings. Jay Beagle, 32, received a 4 year $12 million contract which he couldn’t refuse. He likely won’t see out the contract in the NHL and it will probably send him into retirement, but Beagle is a big body who can suck up some serious minutes (PK included) for a developing team at centre.

Antoine Roussel picked up the exact same deal as Beagle, getting four years of job security at a fair rate for both him an the Canucks. Another “insulation” player, Roussel provides a veteran presence at left wing and at 28 will help balance out what should be a young roster for the next few years. He isn’t a big points player, but Vancouver liked his game enough to commit to him for four years; hey, you cant play ALL your prospects, right?

Another left winger, and another $3 million ($3.366,666 actually) committed, Sven Baertschi re-upped with the Canucks for three more years. Baertschi asked for a trade out of Calgary and got it when it was moved to Vancouver for a 2nd round pick. Calgary thought they salvaged something from the  failed first rounder, but sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs. In the last three seasons Baertschi has been able to focus on his game with consistent playing time and has put up 28, 35, and 29 points in his three seasons with the Canucks. He knows the coach, the team, and the system and is a good player to keep around. This may be their best signing of the summer.

The Canucks round out their early summer signings with Tim Schaller and Darren Archibald. Schaller, 27, provides some solid centre depth for Vancouver and brings some more veteran presence to the team on his 2 year $1.9m/year deal. Archibald is more of the same; in Vancouver’s system since 2013/14 Archibald is an extra forward type player providing stability and depth on the wing at a minimal ($650,000) 1 year deal.

Prized Prospects
The most exciting part of the Canucks right now is their youngsters who are creeping closer to being NHL ready. Much like the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver has stockpiled some high calibre home grown talent and is ready to start reaping the benefits of their patience.

Most exciting of the bunch is Elias Pettersson who is currently playing in the SweHL. The 5th overall pick from Vancouver in the 2017 entry draft has had a phenomenal season with Vaxjo HC, putting up 24 goals and 32 assists for 56 points in 44 games. Pettersson added 19 points in 13 playoff games too. He is undoubtedly the highest ranked prospect in Vancouver’s system and is already garnering consideration for the Calder Trophy next season. Should he step into team, the 6’2″ centre will lead the second line, behind only Bo Horvat at centre ice.

If Pettersson is the most exciting prospect for Vancouver then Thatcher Demko is the most important. Commonly referred to as the most important position on the ice, goaltending is what makes teams elite. The 22 year old goalie hopes to slot in for Vancouver, if not this season than in the near future, and bring with him the elite AHL stats he has been putting up for the Utica Comets. 2.44 GAA in 54 games, with one shut out and a .922 save percentage – not bad. Not every team can boast homegrown goaltending talent, so for Vancouver Demko could push them over the top as a young contender team should he come to fruition.

The third prospect that helps set up the Canucks as a promising young team is Olli Juolevi. 6’3″ and near 200lbs – Juolevi brings size and physicality to to the ice with his style of play. Like Pettersson, Juolevi is already getting consideration for the 2018/19 Calder and for good reason. The 5th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft has developed nicely since being drafted into a physical presence with offensive upside. According to eliteprospects.com, he is an elite skater with good hockey sense who can escape danger with ease. He knows his limits physically, and projects to be an elite all around defenseman. Look for a midseason call up from the AHL Utica Comets for Juolevi.

Canadian Team Rankings

Alright, so: the old guard has moved on into retirement, the GM is straightening things out, the free agent signings were shrewd and not over the top, and the prospects are stockpiled and elite. With the talent the current roster has like Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen (who I think will turn it around), Troy Stetcher, Ben Hutton, and goalie Jacob Markstrom the Canucks are a sneaky good team. The emergence of Boeser last season carried Vancouver to a solid start and made them fun to watch for a few months of the season; he provides them with a solid base to start next season off with.

As it stands now Toronto and Winnipeg are tied at 1 for Canadian team ranking – both are elite teams that can score at will and have impeccable goaltending. Where Winnipeg is better on D, Toronto is better at the centre ice position, but both are too close to call a winner as it stands now. Tied for 3rd then would be Edmonton and Calgary. Both teams had horrible seasons last year, and underperformed. For Edmonton they need to support McDavid with a better cast, and for Calgary the need an elite goaltender. After the Alberta teams Vancouver is ranked 5th for Canadian teams.

Vancouver has a strong skeleton to their NHL franchise and is rising very quickly as their prospect talent looks to step into the big leagues. Both Montreal and Ottawa are tied for last, simply because both franchises don’t want to accept a rebuild and don’t want to cash in on their most valuable assets in Karlsson and Price respectively.

For Vancouver fans the time to grit your teeth and bear the bad play and results is over; bring on the youth and excitement. Don’t be surprised if the Canucks can challenge the Oilers and Flames for games next season and push up towards the top tier of Canadian NHL teams in the next few seasons.

Begin the End, Montreal

To be completely up front with you, I’m a Leaf fan.

But far beyond that, I’m a hockey fan. I enjoy seeing hockey clubs do exciting things like signing free agents, making trades that are high-risk high-reward, and even pulling the odd rip-the-bandaid-off-because-this-will-really-suck-but-it’s-for-the-best kind of deal.

What I don’t like so much, is watching franchises consistently mishandle their assets, disregard their fan-base, and frankly, waste everybody’s time and money.

Yes. This is exactly what I’m saying the Montreal Canadiens are guilty of, and they need to do something about it immediately. Do something like stop messing around and tear it down. I have a great idea where they can start.

Being a Leaf fan doesn’t mean I have to hate on the Habs, just like being a Messi fan doesn’t mean I can’t see Ronaldo’s quality. We’re always trying to be impartial over here at The Rival Sports. For the purpose of this write-up I will however, be hating on the Habs. The method is to show you where to start selling this thing off for (younger) parts.

Exhibit #1: Carey Price

Now, before you stop reading, consider that as a Habs fan, you must love this guy. Doesn’t that mean you want the best for him? Do you honestly believe in your heart of hearts that he’s destined to be a winner in Montreal? If it’s up to me, I’m giving our man a one-way ticket to the world of possibility.

Now at age 30, and signed for an eternity, there are only a few teams that would be in the running to acquire his services. A young team with available draft picks in order to satisfy Montreal’s asking price, (which would be hefty). Only one team in my mind fits this bill. They have a need, they have the youth, and if there’s one place Price would like to play if it’s not Montreal, it would be out West.

The Calgary Flames.

Mike Smith is a UFA after this season, and at 36 years old and having his share of injury troubles, will be a long-shot to be re-signed. Think of Carey Price backstopping a lineup of Johnny Hockey, Sean Monahan, James Neal, Mark Giordano, and TJ Brodie. With a couple other moves for Calgary this would put their club over the top and be a lock for the playoffs every year. Inconsistent goaltending has been the Flames’ problem since the departure of Mikka Kiprusoff. A more suitable landing spot, I couldn’t imagine. Let’s make it happen, for the good of everyone, even the Leafs, (I had to).

What would it take to get him?

A lot. High picks, established roster player, and a couple of prospects.

Exhibit #2: Max Pacioretty

Captain Canadien. Your bluest of chips, perennial 30-goal scorer would be the absolute obvious place to start. Coming off a down year by his standards, that shouldn’t be enough to sour any potential suitors’ opinion of him at all. The trouble is, will Marc Bergevin come to his senses and pull the trigger on what would get them a good haul? In his defense, he did at least try.

Pacioretty is due $4.5-million for the 2018/2019 season and is a UFA the next season where he’s due for a large pay increase a-la JVR in Philly. Whoever looks to acquire him would be paying him in the range of $7-7.5-million. This is a fee that the LA Kings were willing to pay until they chose 35-year-old free agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk on a 3-year $6.2-million contract this off-season.

What would it take in return?

A young roster player
high-end prospect
couple of draft picks (maybe a 1st included or two 2nd)

Why trade him now?

He’s 29 years old and not part of the next wave of youth. Montreal needs to recognize this and ship him out while he’s still very serviceable and can get the largest return. It’s as simple as that.

Possible trade partners: Colorado, Edmonton, New Jersey

As much as I’ve passionately rooted against the Habs my whole life, I do want them to be good. Most of all, I want the best players in the world to be treated properly and to have success. Montreal is obviously one of the most storied franchises in sports, and this mismanagement of the team has put their biggest and best in a terrible position. The Canadiens are not twisting themselves out of this one without doing a rebuild properly. Too much time and too much has been unfortunately wasted, and it’s time to accept that and do the right thing, for everyone’s sake.